In this article, I will be discussing altars and sacred spaces. One may choose to establish a physical sacred space, or a non-physical (i.e. internal) space. Additionally, within one’s sacred space, one may or may not choose to set up an altar. If you are unsure which you prefer to work with, all will be discussed here. And hopefully, this article will provide you with some clarity. Just keep in mind that you do not have to stick to just one, a practitioner may utilize both physical and non-physical spaces.
What is a Sacred Space?
You have more than likely heard the term “sacred space” before, but what you may not know is what it refers to. The word sacred means dedicated to religious or spiritual purposes and the word space simply means a place to occupy. Therefore, a sacred space is simply a place where one feels safe and comfortable to practice his or her religious beliefs. There are several sacred spaces that are common in communities, such as: churches, mosques, temples, and other religious sanctuaries. In this article, we will be focusing specifically on sacred spaces used in one’s Pagan or Magickal practice. We will touch on some traditional, as well as some non-traditional aspects.
Simply put, a sacred space is a place where you feel comfort and can relax while focusing on your beliefs and/or working your craft.
Types of Sacred Spaces
As stated previously, there are two main types of sacred spaces: physical and non-physical.
A physical sacred space is just as it sounds: a physical space that one sets aside in order to have a dedicated area where he or she can practice aspects of his or her faith or religion. This space can be set up in any location where the practitioner feels most comfortable, as it is ultimately the practitioner’s decision. Perhaps one prefers to be near a particular tree in the woods, or perhaps one prefers to conduct magickal workings in one’s garden. Alternatively, perhaps one prefers to designate a room in the home, or simply sets up an altar in a specific area of one’s home. There is no wrong way to go about it so long as it meets the practitioner’s needs.
A non-physical sacred space is a mental one rather than a designated physical space. This is when a space is created through meditation and deep thought. It is a place where actual physical objects, tools, or a “designated” space may not be necessary. This is a space that is constructed within one’s mind.
Physical Sacred Spaces
Physical spaces, as stated above, are actual places where one goes to do what one feels is necessary. This is generally where one goes for things like meditation and magickal workings. What practitioners may consider as a sacred space may vary due to each practitioner having a unique view with respect to what religion and spirituality are, and what is understood or thought to be sacred. One widely known sacred space is Stonehenge, being one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites. Other sacred spaces include: Machu Picchu, the Parthenon, and the Great Serpent Mound. Every year, many choose to visit these historical sites to practice as those before them. Such spaces are said to be full of energy and magick, with the location of these sites being a factor as well.
Though not everyone may be able to visit one of these largely recognized sacred spaces, there are other spaces that some may choose to use. For example, some may choose to utilize local parks, gardens, fountains, or other areas that one feels drawn to; some place where one feels at peace.
Some of the most notable concerns with a physical space is ensuring that it is a place where you are comfortable and that it is accessible when you need it. However, these concerns are manageable, though the resolution will likely vary depending on the circumstances.
If you are wishing to create a sacred space at home, it is important to know that you can create one either inside the home or outside of the home. Some practitioners choose to create one in their garden or elsewhere in their yard so that they can be closer to nature, while others choose to create them inside. Regardless of which you choose, as long it suits your needs and you are comfortable in it, it should suffice for the workings you wish to conduct in it.
Spaces that are created outside of the home are commonly made somewhere in one’s garden or near a trusted old tree. However, it does not have to be one of these spaces. For example: I personally have two sacred spaces out in my yard. One is in my garden because I spend a great deal of time there, and some of my favorite things are located there. In my garden, there is a hammock, a fairy house, a table and chairs, and my very favorite piece, a large cast iron cauldron with a stand. These items are special to me and I feel at peace in my garden. The second space I have outside is an old monument where a statue symbolic of the Christian faith may have once stood. I decided to convert it to an altar, and sometimes I enjoy just sitting in front of it.
Similar to outdoor sacred spaces, there are also many different ways one can create a sacred space inside of one’s home. Some practitioners may choose to dedicate an entire room as a sacred space; however, this is not necessary. A practitioner may choose to simply use a small table, the top of a dresser, or perhaps even one of the shelves in an armoire, or on a bookcase to construct an altar and create a sacred place. This is ideal for those who may not have a large amount of extra space.
I personally have a few sacred spaces that I’ve created inside my home that I use on a regular basis. One of them being an altar in my bedroom on the top of my dresser. Another being a space on the mantle of my fireplace where I keep some sacred objects, such as Tarot cards. Being that I also conduct tarot readings and magickal workings in my kitchen, I created a space in there as well.
What is needed for a Sacred Space?
What is needed for a sacred space depends a great deal on the individual who creates it. Some may choose to set up a physical altar, and have a variety of special religious treasures and tools, while others may choose to have very little. When thinking of a sacred space, one should be sure to choose a place that is comfortable, as one will likely spend quite some time there, and for various reasons. It is a good idea to have a chair, or bench nearby, or at least some floor space where one can sit comfortably and simply enjoy the space. Many practitioners also choose to surround their space with objects they enjoy and objects that have some relevance to their core belief structure such as stones, statues, candles, wands, framed pictures, et cetera. This is a space that should allow you to be one with yourself. That being said, many use their spaces for daily meditation. A sacred space provides one with an area where the person will be left alone to complete whatever is needed at the time.
Creating a Physical Altar
When you are creating an altar, the very first thing you should do is determine the location. Once you have decided on the location, you can begin to work on what you wish to include in this special space. Many practitioners choose to put things that represent each of the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), as well as something to represent Spirit. One may also include statues that represent the deities one honors or worships. Some other things that are often included on an altar are crystals and stones, talismans, candles, and any item(s) that the practitioner feels to have a deeper level of meaning or significance. Keep in mind that what is placed on an altar is very personal for each practitioner, and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. So when constructing an altar, feel free to include items that are meaningful to you.
Cleansing and Consecrating One’s Altar
After you have determined which items you will be placing on your altar, and where you feel it should be, it is a good idea to cleanse the area and consecrate the space. There are many ways in which the area can be cleansed:
- Burning sage or palo santo to clear the space of negativity.
- Using a sage or salt water spray.
- Energy cleansing/commanding the space to be free of negative or unwanted energies.
If you wish to cleanse the space yourself (using your own energy), this can be done by clearing the mind and setting a clear focus on the space being free of negativity. Some find it helpful to speak the words out loud.
After you have cleansed the area, you will then add all of your items to the altar and arrange them in a manner that you feel is suitable.
Once you are finished setting up your altar, you will want to consecrate it. By consecrating it, you are simply dedicating it to a specific purpose. To do this, simply establish a clear understanding of why you created the altar. You will then set the intentions of the altar to fit that purpose. For example, you may wish to use the altar for general purposes, or for a specific purpose, such as a tribute to family members that have passed on, or perhaps it is for self growth.
The Non-Physical Sacred Space
So, what are non-physical sacred spaces? Simply put, these are spaces that one creates internally rather than physically (which are tangible and on the material plane). Non-physical spaces are created through meditation and deep thought.
As with most meditation exercises, you will want to find a quiet place where you can focus on yourself. Once you have found a place where you will be undisturbed and can focus for a while, you will want to sit in a comfortable position with fairly good posture. You will then begin focusing on your breathing. Be sure to take time and breathe slowly.
As you breathe in, feel your lungs swell with air, and then slowly exhale. At first, your mind may wander a bit, and that is okay, but you will want to begin to create a room within your mind.
Some find it helpful to picture a door and walk through the door. Once on the other side, you will want to focus on what is in this room. This should be a place where you feel comfortable and where you can ponder deep thought. It should be a place where you would like to conduct magickal workings. You can place whatever you wish into this room. You can add and remove items as you see fit.
In my personal experience, it is best to keep the space very similar to what it was originally so that it is easy to recognize and return to it. After some time, you will notice that you are able to get to this place quicker and easier.
An Altar On-The-Go
The last type of sacred space we will briefly discuss is the altar on-the-go, also known as a travel altar, or a miniature altar. This allows someone to create a sacred space anywhere he or she goes. For this, you will need an altar box, in which you will place special items that you feel connected to. This will connect you to any space you are in. One may choose to place items in this altar box that represent the elements, deities, and other personal items, such as: stones, wands, and athames. This box is one that you will take with you to keep on hand, and before you conduct any sort of working, you will take out this box and use it to set up your travel altar. You can then conduct any working you wish while away from home.
In this article, we covered the basics of the different types of sacred spaces and how to create them. Be sure to remember that these spaces are what the individual makes them, and as such, can and often do differ greatly from one practitioner to the next.
This article is merely a simple guide to help you be creative in constructing a space that is truly sacred to you. With some time, energy, and a little bit of forethought, you too can have a wonderful sacred space where you can relax and really get to know yourself.
As always, may you be blessed upon your magickal journey.
~ Sara Lynn